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High Strength-to-Weight Ratio:
Just What The Doctor Ordered

Sandpoint, Idaho is a mountain town of less than 10,000 people, on the shore of Lake Pend Oreille. Originally a logging town, it has become a tourist destination—and with population growth comes demand for medical services.

Bonner General Health needed to expand; thus a medical office building was built next door to the existing hospital. Construction of the new facility, however, had its own unplanned emergencies.

As beautiful as it may be, Sandpoint is on an alluvial floodplain of fine, glacial clay that sits in a seismic zone. Original designs called for heavy construction materials of steel and brick on the exterior. “We needed to trim weight from the building to minimize the cost penalty it would have had as a result of the seismic analysis,” says construction manager Jim Williamson.

“Our original plan was to build with steel,” says building owner Chris Meyer. “But the soil conditions presented a different set of circumstances.” A lighter solution was needed, but would a wood frame building be possible? “RedBuilt helped us find solutions at the right cost along with meeting the requirements of engineering,” Chris confirms.

The solution ultimately came from several angles: switching to Red-I™ joists with their impressive strength-to-weight ratio, adding soil stabilization features into the foundation design, and switching part of the building from brick to stucco and an exterior insulation finishing system.

“This is definitely the biggest wood frame building that I’ve ever done,” says Williamson. “Not only did wood give us a more economical structure, but we could more easily source our labor needs with wood framing, too.”

Beyond soil conditions, tenant use also constrained the design. As a medical center, the following considerations needed to be included:

  • High ceiling heights to allow for medical machine placement
  • Complex ventilation and plumbing requirements, including options for anticipated future needs
  • Maximized column spacing to allow for unobstructed rooms and large, flexible spaces
  • Minimal floor vibration
  • Connection by overhead walkway to the Bonner General Health regional hospital

“We needed room for all of that plumbing and mechanical in the floor space,” says Williamson. “The solution came from a careful layout and a collaborative effort between the engineer and the RedBuilt team. We did a lot of up-front value engineering to ensure our design was optimized.” The result?

  • 28″ deep Red-I90™ series I-joists, with 3½″ wide flanges, at 16″ on center for both floors and the roof. Care was taken in the proper installation of the floor joist hangers, hung from 4″ wide steel beams.
  • Even 30 to 32 foot I-joist spans still yielded an acceptable FloorChoice™ performance rating. The goal was to keep the joists shallow, with minimal floor vibration. Vibration would be further dampened by lightweight concrete topping and a gypsum ceiling.
  • RedLam™ LVL columns were used throughout the walls to resist shear and wind loads, and accommodate expansive exterior windows.

After a three-month delay in redesigning the building and stabilizing the soil, the construction team was under a tight time constraint. “RedBuilt understood our needs and constraints, and they were really on top of the ordering process,” says Williamson. “We don’t get big surprises with RedBuilt—no one likes those kinds of surprises.”

“RedBuilt was responsive and creative in solving our challenging structural issues,” says building owner Chris Meyer of Parkwood Business Properties, a family-owned real estate developer. “RedBuilt proves with their warranty that they are a company that stands by their products. As a long-term building owner, we invest in our structures’ sustaining value. And we like working with companies like RedBuilt because we share the same vision.”

Through a collaborative team effort, the unforeseen delays were overcome and the medical building opened in the summer of 2015. The three-story structure is a 50,000 sq. ft. multi-tenant building, home to rehabilitation therapy, women’s health and wound care clinics, blood drawing services, and multiple physicians’ offices.